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Breaking the Ice: Firm’s CEO got her start as technical specialist

Darcy Shukla, named in July as president and CEO of Shumaker & Sieffert in Woodbury, is one of few female patent prosecution firm leaders in the country.

Shukla’s new role follows the retirement of founding partners Steve Shumaker and Kent Sieffert. An executive committee of five shareholders, including two women, now manages the firm as part of its leadership transition.

Also rare is Shukla’s rise from technical specialist to leader of the firm during her 15 years with Shumaker & Sieffert, which offers high-volume patent prosecution services to large corporations.

The firm, Shukla said, is focusing on creating a more inclusive workplace, undertaking diversity, equity and inclusivity initiatives and developing clear career paths for its 45 attorneys and 35 staff.

“It’s beneficial to our clients to get a great diversity of solutions and more creative thinking, maybe looking at things a bit differently than they have been historically,” Shukla said.

Name: Darcy Shukla

Title: CEO and president, principal, Shumaker & Sieffert

Education: B.S. electrical engineering, University of Wisconsin; J.D., University of Minnesota Law School

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: I love hearing about people’s favorite shows or movies or books. I’m always looking for recommendations on things to do with my downtime.

Q: Why did you go to law school?

A: I had engineering internships that were lovely experiences but not the right fit. I have a minor in technical writing, and that and my engineering degree piqued the interest of Steve Shumaker, and I ended up in the technical specialist job. It combined my interest in technology and engineering with my enjoyment of writing and communicating. I worked as a patent agent/technical specialist for three years here and wanted to make a career out of it, so I went to law school.

Q: What books are you reading?

A: I just finished the novel “Less” by Andrew Sean Greer. I am reading “Leading with Emotional Courage.” I’m trying to learn everything I can about different ways of being a leader.

Q: What’s your pet peeve?

A: People coming to me with problems and not solutions. One thing I’ve always loved about this job, and rolls in well with my new position as president and CEO, is working with others to figure out the best path forward.

Q: Best part of your work?

A: Definitely the people. I have worked at this firm a long time, and many of us have. We genuinely enjoy working together.

Q: Least favorite?

A: Patent prosecution has as a better lifestyle, I would say, than litigation. But there are still short deadlines, quick turnarounds, late nights sometimes.

Q: Favorite activity away from work?

A: Playing with my kids. I have a very supportive husband and two lovely children. We like spending time together outdoors.

Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

A: I’m from Green Bay, Wisconsin. That’s where I grew up. I would probably take them outside of Green Bay and go into Door County, where my family is from. I spent my childhood in Door County growing up on the lake in the summers.

Q: Legal figure you most admire?

A: Judge Joan Erickson on the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. When I was a summer associate at Faegre & Benson, I observed her in court. During my last semester of law school, I was an extern in her chambers. Seeing her as a woman in a position of power was really influential on me.

Q: Misconception that others have about your work as an attorney?

A: The first thing that comes to a lot of people’s minds is that I’m patenting a gadget that a solo inventor created in their garage, which I have done and is fun. But we focus on working with large corporations.

Q: Favorite book, movie or TV show about lawyers?

A: “My Cousin Vinny.” My evidence professor has us watch it or a portion of it because it is a true representation of entering evidence in a courtroom, particularly using expert witnesses with Marisa Tomei’s character.


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